A loving cup is a large ornamental drinking vessel. It is commonly used as a presentation trophy or as a shared drinking container at ceremonial events. Loving cups usually feature two handles, and are made of silver. They can be found in several European cultures, variations include the Celtic Quaich and the French Coup de Mariage.
The history of the loving cup dates back to Saxon times, before the Norman conquest of 1066. The ceremony surrounding it is said to derive from the assassination of King Edward the Martyr. The King was murdered while drinking, as by lifting the cup with both hands he left himself vulnerable to attack. Consequently, it became customary for those who stood to drink to have a companion stand with them also. The companion was then able to protect them as they drank.
This custom eventually turned into tradition. Now, in the ceremony of the loving cup this ritual is mimicked. At events, the cup passes around a table with each guest drinking to his neighbour. When the one in possession of the cup stands to drink, their neighbours also rise. One stands back to back with whoever is about to drink, to protect them. The other bows to the drinker, removes the lid from the cup, and replaces it when the drinker is done. The same procedure is followed as the cup is passed round the table, with the original drinker becoming guard and so on.
Due to its use in various ceremonies throughout the years, the loving cup has many meanings. One of the most sentimental is its symbolism when used in a marriage ritual. The loving cup itself represents the cup of life; filled with the future possibilities of the bride and groom. The wine within the cup contains sweet properties that represent happiness, joy, peace and hope. Bitter properties symbolising sorrow, grief and despair are also present. The combination of the two signifies ‘love’s journey’ and the experiences that are a part of this. All those who share from the cup will share the happiness and burdens the wine symbolises together.
Loving cups can be passed down through generations, blessing those who drink from it with happiness and good fortune. They are often engraved with personal messages, suited to their purpose as family heirlooms. At AC Silver we are pleased to be able to offer our customers the exceptional loving cup that is pictured above. This is an impressive, rare antique Irish sterling silver loving cup, made in Cork by George Hodder. It is dated circa 1760, and is a fine example of its type.